7 amazing cockchafer facts

Discover fascinating facts about the May bug.

Cockchafer
1

When’s the best time to see cockchafers?

One of Britain’s bulkiest beetles, the 3-cm-long cockchafer can be heard and seen buzzing and bumping against light fittings and window panes (more commonly in the south) from late April to July.

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2

 What do cockchafers eat?

Until pesticides started controlling them in the Twentieth Century, cockchafers were a serious agricultural pest. The grubs (sometimes called rookworms as they are prized by corvids) can devastate cereal crops. The adults eat leaves and flowers.

Common cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha) aka doodlebug or May bug
Common cockchafer. © Roel Meijer/Getty
3

Cockchafers have caused their fair share of historical surprises

In 1320, an Avignon court sentenced cockchafers to exile in a special reserve – the beetles did not comply. In 1574, cockchafers emerged in such numbers in the Severn valley that the volume of carcasses disabled watermills.

4

Can you get stung by a cockchafer?

The intimidating sharp point at the tip of a cockchafer’s abdomen is not a sting, but a pygidium – used by females to push their eggs deep into the soil.

5

Cockchafer, May bug or doodlebug?

The cockchafer is sometimes known as the doodlebug. Because of the buzz of its flight, this nickname was used for Germany’s V-1 flying bomb in World War II.

Cockchafers are also called May bugs because of the time of year when they tend to emerge.

And those aren’t the only names in use either – mitchamador, billy witch and spang beetle have all been used in different areas in the past.

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Cockchafer aka may bug or doodlebug
Cockchafer on a dandelion. © Viktor_Kitaykin/Getty
6

An unexpected connection to everyone’s favourite mad scientist

Physicist Nikola Tesla used four cockchafers to power a motor as a boy.

Ever wondered why cockchafers have feathery antennae? Want to find out? Then here you go!

Why do cockchafers have feathery antennae?

Photo © Mark Horton/Getty

Cockchafer (melolontha melolontha)